The Punjab Congress battle is not about Navjot Sidhu or Amarinder Singh. It’s about Gandhis
Wlike Navjot Singh Sidhu for whom the first family of the Congress Party publicly undermined the Chief Minister of Punjab and the school friend of the late Rajiv Gandhi Doon, Captain Amarinder Singh? Do the Gandhis think the cricketer turned politician is a better bet than Singh in the Punjab legislative elections next February?
Not exactly. It is not about Sidhu or Singh. It’s about the Gandhis and their idea of creative destruction to revive the party, no matter how thoughtless or cheeky it may appear to those outside the family.
Let’s first try to decipher the Gandhi siblings game plan in Punjab. With the state’s opposition parties appearing disorganized and apathetic, the Gandhis took a calculated risk – a gamble rather. They have to bet on Singh to accept this humiliation with humility. After all, at 79, how much fight would he have left her? Starting a new political round at this age is not an easy option. Can he count on those who will rally around him or against Sidhu in the weeks and months to come? Singh, a seasoned politician, would know better.
Politicians are known to greet the rising sun – Sidhu, in this case. Although Singh made it clear that he would abide by the decision of the Congressional high command, the latter had to calculate the worst case scenario – a possible rebellion by him and a section of disgruntled MPs and MPs. If that happened, the worst outcome would be this: Congress snatches defeat from the jaws of what currently looks like a certain victory in the Punjab elections of 2022. Either way, they seem poised to live with a loss in another state.
This brings us to the central point of why this whole political battle in Punjab was about the Gandhis, not Sidhu or Singh.
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The Gandhi siblings seem to have responded that they must break with the policy pursued by their mother, Sonia Gandhi, since 1998 – dealing with opponents through dialogue, persuasion and reconciliation. This phase may have ended with the death of its main adviser, Ahmed Patel, last November. As long as she depended on him for advice, she wouldn’t let Rahul express his contempt for “the system” in the party – read the old guards. Ahmed Patel would ensure that the old guards control their frustration and impatience. So even when the so-called G-23 sent a letter to Sonia Gandhi exasperated by the situation, Rahul dissuaded them from a confrontation.
The Gandhi siblings are now ready for a showdown, knowing full well the organizational set-up – which has allowed them to have their reference people in key positions – and Congressmen’s belief in the TINA factor (it doesn’t there is no alternative) makes their eviction almost impossible. Even if some of the leaders of the Congress consider that the first family of the party is an electoral handicap, the latter remains well established.
Armed with this knowledge, the Gandhi siblings have now decided to kill – restore unchallenged supremacy. Detractors or opponents must line up or leave. An Amarinder Singh in Punjab, an Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, a Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Haryana, an Oommen Chandy in Kerala, a Siddaramaiah in Karnataka, a Ghulam Nabi Azad in Jammu and Kashmir, a Digvijaya Singh in Madhya Kapil Sibal, or one in Delhi cannot decide what is good or bad for the holiday. The Gandhis are the Congress and its fate must remain with them. If someone does not agree, the message to them is unequivocal: My way or my road.
It is this message that the Gandhi brothers and sisters want to travel from Punjab to other states. Sonia Gandhi will no longer intervene. She must hand over the family business, Congress, to her children, making them sole owners.
Read also : In Congress after Ahmed Patel, Rahul Gandhi must play the great character, call for unity
Veteran congressional leaders who think their decades-long ideological or political loyalty to Congress – and even the mass base – makes them secure in the party is wrong. Such loyalties don’t mean much to Gandhi siblings.
See who all of them appointed the heads of the Congress of States. Rahul Gandhi may be spitting against the ideology of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but he does hand the reins of the party in Telangana to Revanth Reddy, a former activist of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of RSS, which joined Congress in 2017. The new President of the Punjab Congress, Navjot Sidhu, left the BJP after 13 years in 2017 to try to achieve his main ministerial ambitions either within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or in Congress. The head of the AAP, Arvind Kejriwal, could not get someone else to become the CM of a full state. So Sidhu joined Congress. Nana Patole left the BJP to join the Congress in 2018; he was appointed leader of the Maharashtra Congress three years later. Veterans of Congress should therefore not be deluded that their ideology and loyalty are a protective shield behind which they can question Gandhis style for leading Congress.
They should be aware, however, that Rahul may have lost interest in “democratizing” the party, his first goal after becoming secretary general in 2007, but he is actively pursuing his larger goal – to dismantle the party “system”. In his first speech after becoming vice-president of Congress in 2013, Rahul Gandhi spoke of the need to focus on “leadership development” in order to prepare, “in the next 5-6 years”, “40-50” neat or leaders who could run the country and “5-6-7-10” in each state who could become CM.
It turned out that six years later, in 2019, Congress got 52 MPs in Lok Sabha, but they couldn’t get the chance to rule the country. Now that the party has to wait for the Narendra Modi phenomenon to fade in the future, Rahul Gandhi seems to have decided to focus on the next project – developing 5-6-7-10 CM candidates in each state. Sidhu appears to be the first of this batch in Punjab.
Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Prashant Dixit)
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